I’m going to go ahead and warn you that the VAST majority of these are true crime podcasts. I don’t often listen to anything else; for some reason I just love this media for true crime. The funny thing is that I don’t read true crime books or watch shows; I barely even watch anything remotely scary/creepy. These podcasts though? They keep me incredibly intrigued and I get addicted. Today I’ll take you through my favorite podcasts. I’ve never started a podcast that I didn’t like; I’ve finished or caught up on all of these. They’re listed in order of favorite to “least” favorite, but you can tell I like or love all of them! Otherwise they wouldn’t be “recommendations” now would they? Okay here ya goooo.
Up and Vanished
What it’s about: Tara Grinstead, a former high school teacher and beauty queen, disappeared from her Georgia home back in 2005. No real progress had been made in the past 10+ years toward finding her, her body, and/or a possible killer. The podcast creator and narrator, filmmaker Payne Lindsey, set out to investigate the case and hopefully reach a resolution.
Why I love it: Oooooh man. The biggest thing to mention is that the production on this one is so perfect and professional. Payne has a friend do some creepy voiceovers sometimes and the music is on point. I think it’s easily one of the best podcasts, production-wise. Of course you see it listed here as my #1 podcast so clearly I like it for other reasons as well. I’m a huge fan of the mystery. There are sooooo many weird elements to this case. Payne also uploads multiple episodes each week most of the time. There are official episodes, Q&A episodes, and case evidence episodes. I don’t want to spoil anything if you somehow haven’t heard the news, but there was recently a huuuuuge break in the case. The podcast is still ongoing with these new updates, but they also plan a season two with a whole new mystery.
Rating: My only “issue” is that this one is creepier than the rest. I could listen to any other podcast on this list by myself, in the dark, in the shower, etc. and not have an issue. I think the creepier music and voiceovers by his friend really scared me out initially and I just couldn’t keep it up after dark! Otherwise, this is perfect in all ways. I can’t wait to hear more.
Serial (Season 1)
What it’s about: In 1999, Hae Min Lee was found murdered in the woods in Baltimore. Her ex-boyfriend, friend, and classmate Adnan Syed is soon arrested for his murder. He has maintained his innocence over the years and is currently in jail for the crime. There are countless elements of the story that don’t add up and Adnan doesn’t really remember that day very well. Sarah Koenig investigates and interviews him. (The rest of the Serial podcast has seasons about other crimes, but I haven’t listened to them.)
Why I love it: The podcast that started it all – for me and countless others! I jumped on the bandwagon super late but binged these episodes like nobody’s business. If you haven’t listened yet, what are you waiting for?! This is still my holy grail podcast and it was tough to put it here as my very close #2 favorite. It’s absolutely fascinating trying to pull together all of the elements of this story. I have manyyyy theories about this one. It opened up a whole new world for me and fascinated me from start to finish. I can still hear the theme music in my head and it makes me an unhealthy amount of happy.
Rating: This is the originator for me and it’s damn perfect. I love the way it was produced, the theme song, and Sarah Koenig’s voice. SO MUCH. I would love to go back and listen to this again for the first time. The second season and upcoming third season though? Haven’t given them a thought. It’s partly because I’m enthralled with Adnan’s case and partly because the mysteries just don’t interest me as much.
What it’s about: Criminal is a very interesting and different podcast that features individual, non-connected episodes. Each one contains a small story (usually around 25-45 minutes) about some element of criminal activity. This could be “people who’ve done wrong, been wronged, or gotten caught somewhere in the middle.”
Why I love it: I love how different Criminal feels compared to some of these others. Each episode has a new story about some criminal activity – from way back in the past to present day. Just scroll through some of the episode summaries and you can see how much they vary! It’s hard to talk about why I like it so much because each episode is so different from the last, but it keeps things very interesting. It’s exposed me to lots of different topics and issues because the stories are so varied. I listened to probably 50 episodes in the span of a week or two, but they’re great for if you don’t want to binge. You don’t have to. You could even pick and choose the most interesting episodes and go from there. I love Phoebe Judge’s voice too! It’ll grow on you; I didn’t like it in the first few minutes of episode one.
Rating: This is the only podcast I subscribe to where I’ve skipped a few episodes. Some topics just didn’t interest me as much as others so I didn’t bother with them. However, the vast majority of episodes (like 95% of them at least) are incredibly interesting and worth listening to.
Missing Richard Simmons
What it’s about: Back in 2014, Richard Simmons didn’t show up at his workout class… and then never showed up again. He hasn’t been out of his house (as far as anyone knows) or seen in public since then. A friend of Richard’s who went to his workout classes at Slimmons decided to start investigating the “disappearance” of Simmons… and finds out a lot of weird things!
Why I love it: “Why would I care about this podcast!? I’m not a Richard Simmons fan and barely know anything about him.” If you’re thinking the same thing, do yourself a favor and toss those ideas aside. After the first episode of this podcast, you’ll feel VERY differently! I did not expect to care so much but I was desperate to find out what happened to him. It’s a fairly new podcast this year (and very short with only 6 episodes) and the hype is real, but please try it. Even if you think you don’t care about it. It’s enthralling, intriguing, and every other synonym. Richard Simmons is/was a fascinating person and incredibly complex. The interviews with his friends and employees show such a different side to the public persona that everyone knows him by. It’s not as music-heavy or dramatic as the rest, but it’s a nice segue out of true crime if you’re a fan of true crime. It has the disappearance and mystery elements without being legitimately creepy.
Rating: If a podcast can make me care so much about a celebrity that I previously did not think twice about, that’s a feat on its own. This was a very odd podcast but I loved it. My one issue is the final episode and how everything concluded. It’s kind of clear that there are two outcomes from this: they get to talk to Richard… or they don’t. I won’t spoil what happens, but maybe you can guess.
What it’s about: This one is about the unsolved murder of Elizabeth Andes. In 1978, her body was found in her apartment and the police immediately arrested her then-boyfriend. They considered it an easy resolution and, even when he was declared innocent, never reopened the investigation.
Why I love it: Unsolved mysteries are definitely my jam, especially when the story is very complex and involves many possible suspects. This case was like a wild goose chase in a lot of ways, because of all the pieces and people involved, but I liked following along and drawing conclusions. One major thread in this investigation is the issue with law enforcement. Once Bob was found not guilty, the cops maintained that he was the one who did the crime and they wouldn’t look into it any further. I liked all of these different aspects but wish there was more resolution by the end. I don’t expect a full solution and arrest or anything, but I wonder if there was more to the story? I hope people continue to come forward with more information.
Rating: I’m eager for the next season of Accused! I loved the hosts for this one and think they did a really great job of delivering the story. I don’t have many complaints except for the small one I mentioned above.
How Did This Get Made?
What it’s about: Three comedians/actors get together to discuss bad movies! Jason Mantzoukas, Paul Scheer, and June Diane Raphael all watch the movie ahead of the podcast episode and film their reactions. They talk about why the movie was so terrible, the acting, favorite scenes (or really terrible/crazy ones obviously), and really anything else. It’s an open discussion that seems to have no direction but always makes me laugh.
Why I love it: This is a tough one to rate and recommend, because I’ve only listened to a handful of episodes. Because this is a podcast about bad movies, I only want to listen to the episodes for movies I’ve seen before. Chris and I did spend some time focusing on these movies, watching them, and then listening to the show, but we haven’t in a while. I think the setup is really funny and have loved the episodes I’ve listened to! The three hosts have good chemistry together and the jokes are great. I wish the episodes were longer for some reason, and I wish they got into more things about each movie. They get off on tangents about certain things and don’t really discuss everything in a specific order.
Rating: If you’re a huge movie buff and have seen most of these movies, I think you’ll really enjoy it. The comedy is great but I wish they did more movies I’ve seen or want to see. I love making fun of bad movies and saying “omg so true” when listening to this one. It’s hard to give a real rating for it though.
In the Dark
What it’s about: One of the most publicized child abduction cases in history – the 1989 disappearance of Jacob Wetterling – led to countless ramifications for law enforcement/police, new laws, and families with kids. His abduction was unsolved for 27 years… even though the perpetrator was right in front of their eyes the whole time.
Why I love it: I mentioned above that one of the major reasons that I liked Accused was because it turned a critical eye to law enforcement, wondering if they could have acted differently or better. This podcast pretty much has this theme as the sole focus of it. The mystery itself is gone because the abductor came forward and confessed last year, but the story is able to highlight where officers went wrong. It was amazing to me just how many mistakes were made or people/stories were overlooked. Absolutely unreal. The host goes into detail about other investigations that got messed up in that small Minnesota county, as well as the long-lasting legislation (sex offender registries) from this case. Huuuuge impact! This podcast isn’t as creepy as I expected but I was really intrigued the whole time. I told myself I wasn’t going to binge it but I totally did.
Rating: I mentioned that this one is different because the kidnapper is known throughout the whole podcast. It seems like she started this project without knowing who it was, and then they confessed right as she was starting the show. It takes her on a different – but really interesting – direction. It was weird and unsettling to know their identity throughout, so they “mystery” aspect was lacking for me.
What Say You?
What it’s about: Sal and Q from The Tenderloins (aka the Impractical Jokers TV show) have their own podcast where they discuss completely random things whenever they can. There are crazy stories from their tour, Nugget News, and some appearances from other comedians (the JV Squad).
Why I love it: I haven’t listened to this one in a while, but to be fair… I started listening pretty late and decided to catch up on old episodes first. I would love to keep up with new ones but I can’t help but want to go in order. There are some seriously HILARIOUS stories that had me cackling like a madwoman. The Nugget story, the Wii story, the hotel story… and those are just in the first handful of episodes. I hope to pick this one back up someday, but I think I paused because it was too much to binge. It’d be a GREAT one to just listen to as each episode is released. Sal and Q are my two favorites from Impractical Jokers so them coming together is great for me. I love the show and hope to get back into both at some point.
Rating: This is definitely a podcast for you if you love Impractical Jokers! The style of humor is similar but I love hearing the two of them just go back and forth, often making fun of each other, and telling stories. They’re exactly how you know them on the show. I still think of Sal’s Wii story every time a Wii is mentioned around me. Soooo funnny.
Finding Tammy Jo
What it’s about: The body of a 15-16 year old girl was found in a cornfield in 1979. Years and years passed without knowing who the body belonged to. Suddenly, through a crazy chain of events, a missing person report was filed for a young girl who had been missing since that year. The body was identified as Tammy Jo, but no one understands how she got there or the circumstances of her death.
Why I love it: There were so many insane aspects of this case and how it came together! I don’t want to spoil the whole story of the podcast, but there is a wild combination of factors adding up to the “resolution” – from web sleuths, to a friend finally making a missing person report (over 30 years later), to criminal sketch artists, to boiled ham… seriously, there are so many things that came together to solve the case. There’s still a mystery left though, because no one really knows how Tammy Jo got from Florida to New York and why. Why was she killed? What did the man she was with in the diner have to do with it? Why did none of her family members come forward and say “hey our relative went missing” over the course of that 30 years? There were so many things that didn’t make sense to me and so many items of pure chance to bring some closure.
Rating: I loooooved listening to this one. Each episode kept me intrigued enough to see what would happen next. I wish there was a legitimate resolution though. I want to know who killed her! I always hope podcasts like this will make people hear about the issue and speak up, in case they remember something from back when it happened. The lack of resolution bugged me and the production on this one wasn’t as great as others, but still an enthralling and complex story to hear.
What it’s about: An eccentric man in an Alabama town (that he’s dubbed “Shit-town”) reaches out with a request: come down to investigate this murder that he thought was covered up by a rich family. The story quickly shoots off in different, unexpected directions from the initial story and purpose, but focuses on this man, John, and his life.
Why I love it: This is a very difficult podcast to describe. As it continued and each episode developed in a new direction, I wondered… what is the point here? What is my takeaway going to be? Are there going to be big twists or reveals later on, like I’m so used to? I’d caution everyone thinking about this podcast because it’s from the Serial team to recalibrate their expectations. It is nothing like Serial, which is a good and bad thing. I kept wondering why they didn’t just make this season three instead of starting another one, but I can totally see why now. This explores a town, the people in it, and the main character in great detail, during a specific period of time. I can’t say more because major spoilers that you find out at the end of episode two.
Rating: This is a tough one for me. I’d recommend it and I’m glad I listened to it, but I can’t really overtly recommend it to a certain group of people. It’s not true crime, or comedy, or really like anything I’ve heard before. It’s unique and intriguing but left me wanting more.
Honorable mention: Right now I’m currently listening to My Favorite Murder, where two friends discuss murders and related crimes that happened in their hometowns and listeners’ hometowns. It’s a really different format because they just chat about murders without “solving” them, like most of the true crime podcasts above. It’s pretty funny so far, but I don’t have enough info to give a real rating or rec yet!